TW Cable Issues IP Set-Top RFP

2012-10-17 12:03:08

Time Warner Cable Inc. has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for IP-only set-top boxes, and is giving more than a dozen suppliers a shot at playing a role in the operator's upcoming IP video transition, Light Reading Cable has learned.

Multiple people familiar with the RFP say it was issued to vendors in August and September and that the operator intends to pick at least four suppliers from the lot. Deployments are not expected to begin until at least the second half of 2013.

TW Cable's main set-top suppliers are Samsung Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The focus of the RFP is believed to be for low-cost client devices along the lines of the XI3 that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is developing. It's anticipated that those devices initially will work in tandem with video gateways that can transcode QAM to IP and distribute those streams to connected devices.

Of recent note, TW Cable President and COO Rob Marcus said in August that the operator was developing a cloud-based guide that will be rolled out next year in concert with IP set-tops and new hybrid IP/QAM gateways that sport six tuners, a terabyte of storage and a Docsis 3.0 cable modem.

TW Cable executives have talked about reducing the company's reliance on set-top boxes as that functionality gets embedded in TVs, tablets and other IP-connected devices, but the operator is considering using these clients to support millions of TVs in its cable footprint that are not IP-enabled, an industry source said.

Seeding the market with the new boxes should help prepare TW Cable for a broader IPTV simulcast strategy and migration. TW Cable is already delivering a portion of its linear TV lineup using apps for iOS and Android devices, and has deals in place to deliver IP streams directly to IP-connected connected TVs.

And there's apparently much more IP video activity going on behind the scenes. FierceCable, for example, has come across a TW Cable job posting that seeks a principal architect tasked with developing "next generation residential and commercial IPTV video services."

A Time Warner Cable spokesman wouldn't comment about the RFP and job posting, but acknowledged that the operator has "said often that we want to bring our services to the IP devices our customers interact with," referencing the operator's IP video apps for tablets and smartphones and the work underway to deliver its subscription TV services directly to connected TVs.

Connecting with Comcast's RDKTW Cable's IP set-top project is also expected to use software that can ride on top of the Reference Design Kit (RDK), a pre-integrated software bundle originated at Comcast that aims to cut the product development cycle by a year or more. At The Cable Show in May, TW Cable Director of Subscriber Equipment Chris Cholas said that the RDK will fit into the operator's IP video initiative.
"Any winning bidder [for the TW Cable RFP] will need to have an RDK license," says an industry source.

Having TW Cable adopt the RDK is a big deal because it would align the nation's two largest operators on a video project that aims to cut costs and accelerate product development by decoupling the hardware from the software.
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